Rounds with Leadership: Focusing Federal Investments on Nursing

AACN Board Chair Cynthia McCurren and AACN CEO Deborah Trautman

Welcome to Rounds with Leadership, a forum for AACN’s Board Chair and President/CEO to offer commentary on issues and trends impacting academic nursing.

As the nation emerges from the prolonged impact of COVID-19, the U.S. healthcare system faces a severe shortage of nurses to meet the health needs of the population, while the stresses of the pandemic have led many nurses to consider changing roles away from patient care or even changing professions.

NACNEP, January 2024

In response to the workforce concerns raised above, the National Advisory Council on Nursing Education and Practice (NACNEP) issued its 19th report to Congress and the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services earlier this month titled Mitigating Nursing Workforce Challenges by Optimizing Learning Environments. In this report, NACNEP is advocating for immediate action to address four leading concerns, including the nursing faculty shortage, clinical preceptor training, nursing student internship opportunities, and nursing education infrastructure.

Since 2001, the appointed leaders serving on NACNEP – including representatives from nursing education, practice, and research – have been advising Congress on nursing’s priority issues, including opportunities for federal investment.  Past reports issued by NACNEP have focused on enhancing workforce diversity, addressing the nursing shortage, strengthening the faculty population, promoting innovation in education, and overcoming public health challenges.

In its latest report, NACNEP is calling on Congress to commit funding to advance the following:

  • Models that demonstrate a commitment to salary equity and sustainability for nurse faculty commensurate with healthcare trends and demands.
  • Professional development and compensation of preceptors who are supporting preparation of our future nursing workforce through mechanisms including, but not limited to, stipends and continuing education.
  • Workforce pathway models that feature paid nursing student internships with an incentivized mentorship program to foster opportunities for nursing students to gain team-based nursing experience in varied healthcare settings.
  • Educational infrastructure advancement that demonstrates the ability to establish and employ innovative pedagogical strategies (e.g., virtual/augmented reality, robotics, simulation) to enhance undergraduate and graduate nursing education.

Since its inception, AACN has been an active collaborator with NACNEP and has served as a reliable source for expert guidance and data to help frame the issues and potential responses. AACN’s comprehensive data set on faculty salaries was critical to establishing the benchmarks used by NACNEP to push for pay equity between nurses in academia and practice. In addition, AACN’s leadership including Board Chair-Elect Dr. Jean Giddens and staff members Dr. Joan Stanley and Dr. Susan Corbridge, presented to NACNEP in February 2023 on the 2021 Essentials and the move toward competency-based education. This focus on infusing innovation into nursing education is reflected throughout the NACNEP report, including this excerpt from pages 18-19:  

“The ability to effectively evaluate students’ competency to practice, as detailed in the AACN Essentials, is enhanced when simulation-based experiences are designed and facilitated by faculty who are qualified to support effective technology-enhanced experiences. Opportunities to expand the capacity for nursing education through these innovative educational strategies will afford nursing educational institutions nationwide the opportunity to prepare a greater number of qualified nurses.”

We encourage you to read the full NACNEP report and consider what your institution and the larger academic nursing community can do to advance the final recommendations. AACN will continue to advocate for greater federal investments in nursing education to strengthen the healthcare workforce and protect the nation’s health.  For more information, view AACN’s federal policy and advocacy initiatives.